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LUXURY HOTEL INSIDER
 
FSA LogoThe Luxury Hotel Insider: Exclusive luxury hotel deals, features and special rates from the luxury hotel experts at Five Star Alliance. 
 
Named one of Tripbase's Best Luxury Travel Blogs for 2011, below are Five Star Alliance's newest articles featuring exclusive information on luxury hotels worldwide including special offers and deals at the world's best hotels.

Where Not To Eat in Antigua, Guatemala

January 12, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Panza Verde

Ringed by volcanoes, brimming with colonial charm, Antigua has become a hotspot for savvy travelers, who are enchanted by the pastel facades of churches and large Spanish houses, cobblestone streets lit by antique street lamps and Mayan markets. This town is the essence of romance. But finding a decent restaurant may prove difficult. Clinton may have dined at La Fonda de la Calle Real, but forget it— this place has gone to the dogs. Avoid Frida's at all costs, where overpriced Mexican fare is bland and mediocre. Near the Parque Central, Monoloco serves ghastly American-style bar food to a crowd of eager Norteamericano youth and Guatemaltecans from the capital who trek to scope Antigua's bar scene on the weekends. So what's a hungry gal to do? Head to the exquisite, romantic Panza Verde, set in a graceful colonial building with candle-lit walkways, garden courtyards with fountains, and a menu that includes such delightful dishes as tenderloin slathered in mushrooms and escargot.


Go Green in Costa Rica: the Luxurious Lapa Rios Ecolodge

December 22, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Lapa Rios

The Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica is the site of some of Central America's last remaining lowland tropical rainforest. It is also the site of the 1,000 acre private nature preserve of the Lapa Rios resort. The rainforest resort is not only a model Ecotourism Project, it is also a fixture on CN Traveler's Gold List and winner of Andrew Harper's Hideaway Award. This isn't exactly roughing it. The main lodge and bungalows are built 350 feet above the sea, with breathtaking ocean vistas, the structures designed in complete harmony with the surrounding landscape. Enjoy rainforest wilderness adventures in Corcovado National Park, appreciate the incredible biodiversity of Costa Rica, while indulging in gourmet dining, superb spa services, plush accommodations and a sparkling pool…


Luxury Eco-Tours in South America: Yachting the Galapagos

December 14, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Yacht in Galagagos

The marvelous Galapagos Islands, the inspiration for Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, are home to the greatest diversity of creatures on the planet. What better way to experience this rich biodiversity than by private yacht tour? Blue Parallel is the specialist for private luxury travel to the wondrous natural wonders of South America, including customizable yacht packages to the equatorial islands of the Galapagos. Boats range in size from small (one to four passengers) to larger cruise ships for up to 40 peeps. The price range? From between $6,000 to $7,000 per person for an 11 day trip. Amenities include a superb staff (onboard personal chefs, expert naturalists, dive instructors, masseuse, and butler) and five-star accommodations.

Via Business Week


Breaking News: Starwood Hotels and Resorts Acquires Le Meridien

November 25, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Starwood just announced that it acquired the Le Meridien brand of 130 hotels and resorts for $225 million. For the 24 million Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) customers, this means more choice in markets like Paris, Nice, Dubai and London. Additionally, Starwood will gain properties where it doesn't have them currently, in spots like Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Budapest, the Seychelles and Mauritius.


Salud! Cocktails of Latin America

November 24, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Since Belize counts as both Lonely Planet's and my personal destination of the month, thought I'd raise a glass to Placencia's classic cocktail: the Panty Ripper. Concocted with coconut rum and pineapple juice. Belize's One Barrel is arguably the best rum in the Caribbean. Or maybe Cuban reigns supreme? What’s your vote? Bored of mojitos, and care to share your choices of exotic Latin cocktails? Travel and Leisure sings the praises of Guaro (Costa Rica’s spirit of choice, fast becoming the fave of music and entertainment highrollers) in the November issue.


Announcing Four Seasons Ocean Residences (AKA Cruise Ship)

November 23, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Four Seasons Cruise Ship

A permanent address that's an everchanging address… now that's a cool idea. Slated to launch in fall 2007, the ship will include 100 luxury apartments, with all the indulgent amenities for which Four Seasons is famous (spa, steam room, pool and cabanas, jogging track and fitness center, even… golf?) Grab a stake before they sell out. From $400,000 for a one-month timeshare for 50 years.

Via Travel and Leisure (flipping through the November issue)


All About Belize: Francis Ford Coppola’s Turtle Inn

November 23, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Turtle Inn

I know, I know --I just wrote about this man's marvelous digs in the Belize jungle. But having witnessed the Turtle Inn by moonlight, I'm dazzled enough to blog again. The deets? Luxury ecotourism at its finest. Situated on a sweeping bay of white sand, in the tiny fishing village of Placencia, the 11 cabanas and 6 villas are serenely situated amongst carefully landscaped gardens-- the coconut palms outlined at night by artfully placed lights. At the Turtle Inn, it's all about the details: the entrance-boardwalk over a turtle-filled pool, handsome waiters in sarongs, a display of sand and shells over the t.p. dispenser, and of course Coppola wines stocked in the mini-bars. The best part? A conch shell phone! to communicate with the front desk. The cabanas are absurdly big, designed in a Balinese theme with all imported hardwoods and thatched roofs. The outdoor showers are exquisite-- set in their own private tropical gardens. And as the jolly gardener proudly informed me, "No AC, No TV." When the director's not in residence, his villa is up for grabs, complete with private entrance, huge pool, and attentive butler service.


The Caribbean’s Best Kept Secret: Bocas del Toro, Panama

November 14, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Bocas del Toro Aqua Lodge

Beautiful white sand beaches framed by tropical forest. A small-town Caribbean vibe. Marine parks with abundant coral reefs attracting marvelous fish and animal life. A snorkeling and scuba-diving paradise. Welcome to Bocas del Toro, Panama. To reach these islands off the country’s Caribbean coast (close to the Costa Rica border), one could opt for a short flight. Or one could be more adventurous and choose the water taxi, an experience in and of itself. The boat ride travels through old canals formerly used by the banana plantations. Peer down into the clear Caribbean-blue water, and you can see fish swimming beneath the gnarled roots of the mangroves. Where to stay? The (still-quaint) town has undergone development in recent years so that there are luxurious accommodations aplenty, in addition to cheaper hospedajes. Check out the environmentally-friendly Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge, which topped Luxury Travel Magazine’s 2005 A-List. Each bungalow is built on stilts over the crystal clear sea, your own private terrace providing vistas of jumping dolphins at sunset.


Travel to San Salvador (El Salvador, NOT Brazil)

October 26, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

San Salvador Historical Center

Let’s say you’re stuck on business in San Salvador—one of those alarmingly large, sprawling, polluted Central American capitals. Whatever to do?! And where on earth to eat? (Besides the prolific Burger King and stinking Pollo Campero?) First stop, the English language bookstore, Bookmarks, to wile away those hours with a quality paperback. (Centro Comercial Basilea, Col San Benito) Next door, in the trendy Zona Rosa neighborhood, is fantastic al fresco dining, the white tablecloths overlooking fountains and plenty of pretty people. Zona Rosa is hopping on weekends, with lots of bars and trendy clubs. If your stomach turns at street food (though the local pupusas—cornmeal patties stuffed with rice and beans—are excellent), you can also try La Ventana (Calle San Antonio Abad at Av San Jose, near Boulevard de los Heroes), which serves German and European fare along with Salvadoran tipica, in a convivial atmosphere. To sleep? The Real Intercontinental will suffice (It’ll have to—it’s the best in town.) Is there anything redeeming about this city? Anyone, anyone?


Bliss Out in Belize: Francis Ford Coppola’s Blancaneaux Lodge

October 26, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Blancaneaux Lodge

…with luxury pampering deep in the jungle. The director’s eco-resort is graced by the lagoons and tempting waterholes of the Privassion river, which flows through the property. Blancaneaux Lodge is surrounded by miles of lush, flowering trails for hiking and biking. True to its mission of sustainability, the resort features an organic garden, providing 80% of the produce for Blancaneaux and the Turtle Inn. Looking for a perfect honeymoon spot? The Deluxe Honeymoon Package includes horseback riding to the falls, canoeing Barton Creek Cave, an exclusive spa treatment, and candlelit dinner on the deck of your private cabana. The Honeymoon Cabanas are perched over waterfalls, with huge private decks and your own garden paradise. Or choose accommodations in the Francis Ford Coppola Villa, where the director’s personal art and antiques are furnished throughout. Check out the Mountain and Beach Package: three nights at Blancaneaux Lodge overlooking the falls before taking a ride down to the coast for four romantic nights on the Caribbean beach at Coppola’s divine Turtle Inn.

Blancaneaux Lodge, Official Site